Now Cough

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's Biden!

Even though Joe Biden said this earlier this week:

"Hey guys, I'm not the guy." It turns out he IS the guy.

Barack Obama made a good choice, and I'm not saying that just because I am a son of Delaware.

I first met Biden as an incoming freshman. Thousands of us were lined up at the University of Delaware fieldhouse and stadium, waiting to sign up for coveted classes. In the blazing sun, this guy in shirtsleeves and a tie comes down the line quickly shaking hands. I shook his and he moved on and thought "That guy sure looks young."

He was -- only 29, a former elected county official. And his wife, Neilia, so very attractive.

Within weeks he was elected as the youngest US Senator from Delaware. I cast my vote for him, certainly.

And, within weeks she was dead along with his daughter, Naomi. They were killed in a horrible car accident less than a mile from my parent's house (View Larger Map) at a dangerous intersection where a winding, two-lane country road joined a busy four-lane highway. Police at the scene said they knew the victims were members of the Biden family because of all the strewn campaign material found at the scene. His two sons, Beau and Hunter, survived the crash.

If you want a clear picture of Biden as a candidate and senator and flawed person, you won't get a better account than the chapters about him in the masterful What It Takes.

I next saw Biden a couple years later. He was speaking one night on campus at Mitchell Hall, a beautiful theatre. This was when it was still exciting and somewhat cool to go see a US senator speak. I went there with my friend Greg Leute; we sat in the balcony and Biden walked out onto the bare stage alone. And, without notes, he spoke---about the Vietnam War (what we were concerned about), and poverty and Nixon and trust and most importantly, public service. He was about 10 years older than us and that night he owned the venue. At precisely one hour into his talk as he finished, the alarm went off on his watch and everyone laughed. He had timed the talk perfectly.

Greg and I left the speech so inspired and moved. It was really something.


  • Wow. Great story! I was amazed to learn that Biden was elected at 29 (and took office at 30). All the talk of Obama being young (at 47) sure sounds stupid now.

    I really liked Biden 20 years ago when he ran for President. Too bad about the plagiarism thing derailing him. He was a lot better than Dukakis.

    But I wasn't aware of the story about his wife and daughter dying in a car crash. Terrible stuff. Amazing that he's kept going all these years.

    Seeing Biden go up against McCain will be interesting!

    By Blogger John Proffitt, at 8:02 PM  

  • Hi John,

    I'm from DE too - graduated from McKean in '76 and U of D in '80. Sen. Biden and his family attended our church in Hockessin and I always thought the accident was on Limestone but closer to Hockessin and closer to their home in the area of North Star. Are you sure it was at the entrance there to what I think is now K mart or some such strip mall?

    By Blogger Mary, at 3:49 PM  

  • You're correct, the accident WAS NOT at the intersection where the Kmart shopping center is located. It was a few miles north at the intersection of Limestone and Valley Roads. I grew up on the property along that intersection. Even though I was very young at the time, I remember the day it happened and the debris that covered the area for a long time after. I remember finding toys that must have been flung from the car. So tragic.

    By Blogger Carol, at 8:03 PM  

  • Hi, John Barth!
    I've often wondered how and where you were--and here you are, taking my name in vain (heh heh...)! Well, not in vain, as it turns out. I hope you see this, and I hope you have motive and opportunity to respond. Love to hear from you.
    Greg Leute

    By Blogger Greg, at 7:51 AM  

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